Playoffs Today: Kings return home down 2-0

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We got a full lineup of playoff action for today, including a critical Game 3 for the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

All of the games can be watched on NBC Sports Live Extra in addition to the channels mentioned below.

Game 2: Washington Capitals host New York Rangers (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Capitals lead series 1-0

Since the start of April, the Capitals have only lost two games and the Rangers weren’t able to derail that momentum in Game 1.

Alex Ovechkin has 23 goals in 22 games dating back to the regular season after beating Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist on Thursday. Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera accounted for the Capitals’ other two goals while Washington goaltender Braden Holtby picked up right where he left off in the 2012 playoffs.

Rangers coach John Tortorella and captain Ryan Callahan are both looking for their team to play a more disciplined game this afternoon. Staying out of the sin bin was something New York did exceptionally well in the regular season, but they committed five minor penalties and were called for too many men on ice in Game 1.

Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick will be the play-by-play commentator for NBC and he will be joined by Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire.

Game 2: Boston Bruins host Toronto Maple Leafs (7:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Bruins lead series 1-0

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first playoff game since 2004 didn’t go particularly well for them. “We self-destructed,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle summarized after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss.

The Maple Leafs actually found the back of the net first, but the Bruins outshot the Maple Leafs by a 2-1 margin, with Toronto goaltender James Reimer stopping 36 of 40 shots.

“Sometimes you have to flush it,” Reimer said of the game, according to the Toronto Star.

The Boston Bruins will compete without defenseman Andrew Ference, who will serve his one-game suspension for elbowing forward Mikhail Grabovski.

Russ Thaler and Anson Carter will be CNBC’s hosts for this game.

Game 3: Detroit Red Wings host Anaheim Ducks (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Series tied at 1-1

Detroit coughed up a three-goal lead in Game 2 on Thursday, but still managed to net a power-play goal in overtime. As a result, the Ducks have surrendered their home ice advantage in this series.

“We can’t keep taking penalties, because their power play was good for them tonight like it was for us in Game 1,” said captain Ryan Getzlaf. “It was tough being shorthanded.”

Very tough apparently, as evidenced by the fact that Detroit has converted on 40% of its power-play opportunities through this early stage of the postseason. On a more negative note for Detroit, rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser suffered a broken thumb and is likely done for the playoffs. Brian Lashoff is expected to take his place on the Red Wings’ blueline.

Joe Micheletti will provide analysis for the game for NBCSN while Rick Peckham is will be the play-by-play commentator.

Game 3: Los Angeles Kings host St. Louis Blues (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Blues lead series 2-0

Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t think a 2-0 deficit is the “end of the world,” but it’s fair to say that this is a critical game for the Kings.

Los Angeles has scored just two goals in two games and Kings forward Jeff Carter has no playoff points after netting 26 goals in the regular season.

If there’s a silver lining for the Kings, it’s that they were 19-4-1 at home this season, so perhaps moving the series to the Staples Center will help the Kings rebound. If they want to win this series, at some point they’ll need to win a game on the road, but obviously they can’t afford to think that far ahead right now.

John Forslund will be the game’s play-by-play guy and will be joined by Daryl Reaugh.

Nasty hits, fights, and a blowout in Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens

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First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.

It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.

You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.

(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)

That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:

This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.

That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.

Auston Matthews was definitely part of the fun for Toronto in his return from injury, including scoring this goal:

(You almost wonder if Mike Babcock was rolling the dice even having his star players out there amid all that carnage, but that goal was a sweet reward.)

[MORE: Why Toronto needs Matthews back for a tough stretch]

Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.

By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

Yikes.

Ovechkin returns after being badly bloodied by puck to face

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It’s still relatively early on Saturday night, and both the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals could eventually provide further updates that derail this optimism.

With that out of the way, at the moment, the theme of the night might just be teams dodging big injury bullets, even if the star players in question can’t dodge actual damage.

In the case of Corey Crawford, he bounced back for the Blackhawks after Evgeni Malkin‘s thigh area clipped him in the head. Maybe it looked worse than it was?

Now, any time you see people scrape blood off the ice, you get a reminder of how dangerous – and yeah, occasionally strange – hockey can be. That only becomes more disturbing when that blood is coming from a player as important as Alex Ovechkin:

Remarkably, Ovechkin is returning for the third period of the Capitals’ game against the Minnesota Wild.

So:

  • This is a reminder that Ovechkin is tough, in case you foolishly think he isn’t because … his teams have lost in big games or something? Considering how recklessly he often throws his body around, and how infrequently he misses games due to to injury, you’d think that debate would have died a long time ago. Moments like this make it seem that much sillier.
  • Ovechkin must really want to help the struggling Capitals turn things around.
  • Maybe he wants to hang an L on his old boss Bruce Boudreau?

Anyway, PHT will keep an eye on these situations. Sometimes there are more answers the night of events, and sometimes it takes a little longer.

Right now, it’s reasonable for Capitals fans and Blackhawks fans to feel some relative, even if it’s only in the interim.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Video: Corey Crawford seemingly OK after contact by Evgeni Malkin

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been up-and-down so far in 2017-18, but Corey Crawford has been brilliant almost every night he’s been in net. It’s to the point that he might be a little underrated, as people assume that Chicago will keep finding ways to win, possibly missing how big a part he’s playing in its successes.

Crawford’s been able to clean up a lot of messes, so Saturday brought a scare, as he seemed to take head contact from Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

You can see the contact in the video above. It seemed like quite a collision, as part of Malkin (thigh? middle-boy) seemed to connect with Crawford at a fairly high speed.

The penalty call drew at least some complaints from Penguins fans, but the important thing either way is that the Blackhawks took a look at Crawford before allowing him to return to the game.

Now, we’ve seen players return to action only to miss games in the future, so it’s still worth monitoring Crawford. Considering how important he is to the Blackhawks, they have to hope that it was one of those plays that looked more painful than it actually was.

Also, with some justifiable complaints about players not going through concussion protocol lately, a lot of people are pleased with Chicago for at least assessing Crawford. We’ll see if anything changes, but right now, this seems like a dodged bullet (but not a dodged Malkin).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Coyotes are (gasp) on a winning streak

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As of this writing, the Arizona Coyotes have the least standings points in the NHL (11) despite playing a league-leading 22 games.

Things could change for this young team, but for now, it’s about small victories, which makes actual wins that much bigger. Perhaps what they really needed was this road trip through Canada?

After losing to the Jets in Winnipeg 4-1 on Nov. 14 (no real shame, really, as everyone’s losing to the Jets lately … just ask the Devils), the Coyotes left Claude Julien and the Montreal Canadiens fuming by getting their first regulation win of 2017-18 by a score of 5-4.

Arizona couldn’t make it consecutive wins in regulation, but when Anthony Duclair completed a hat trick with the overtime game-winner, they did something rare: the Coyotes won back-to-back games. Yes, gang, those scrappy kids now have their very own winning streak after today’s 3-2 OT win against the Ottawa Senators.

They wrap up this run of Canadian games by facing the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday.

Just like any self-respecting sports team, the Coyotes get to participate in a ceremony after wins.

One would guess that Zac Rinaldo got the “championship belt” stemming from the rough stuff between the Coyotes and Canadiens, which included a Rinaldo fight (no surprise) and Tomas Plekanec‘s first NHL bout (in his 941st career game).

The Coyotes want to bounce back from their bad start, while Duclair hopes to shed the weight of a lousy 2016-17 season.

At 4-15-3, Arizona might already be in too big of a hole to make any waves. Even so, they can gain some respect, and show that they’re not as bad as their record indicates. Heck, a win in Toronto would give them an undeniably successful road trip, something that’s not always a layup even for established, contending teams.

Now, now, all of that aside … it might be a little too early to take them seriously.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.